Asylum tragedy: Call for bipartisan action

The Edmund Rice Centre today called upon Federal politicians to forge a 'concrete and durable mechanism' for bipartisan cooperation on Australia's asylum policy.

"This boat disaster is a tragedy which can't fail to move the hearts of all Australians. We offer our deeply felt condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives," stated Edmund Rice Centre director, Phil Glendenning.

"Whilst now is not the time to apportion blame, what is required is an end to the deadlock that is paralysing our national capacity to sensibly and humanely resolve the asylum policy impasse."

"When our adversarial political system is applied to asylum policy it has sown intolerance, awakened old historic fears, and has too often resulted in events such as the tragedy the nation has witnessed today."

"Such a bipartisan spirit could enable the parliamentarians of Australia to do what the parliamentarians of Australia did in the post-Vietnam war period -- to rise above narrow politics to act in the national interest -- which is the interest of saving lives," he said.

"The bottom line here is that, whilst ever there are wars and on-going persecution of minorities in places like Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Iran and Iraq, people will still flee to escape violence."

"Perhaps we have reached a point where we need to consider the selection of a bipartisan panel of eminent Australians tasked to chart a humanitarian pathway forward for our asylum policy," Mr Glendenning affirmed.

"There will be no circuit-breaker and the deaths of asylum seekers will continue to occur until both sides of politics commit to firm bipartisanship in this policy area."

Over the past ten years the Edmund Rice Centre has conducted research into what happens to Australia's rejected asylum seekers. Two major reports have been so far published: Deported to Danger and Deported to Danger II -- leading to the making of the television documentary, A Well Founded Fear , which screened nationally in 2008.

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